RealTime IT News

NTT's 'Killer' IPv6 App a Potential Lifesaver

With the older Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) nearing address space exhaustion, and the U.S. government's impending June deadline for IPv6 capability, there are certainly more drivers than ever for IPv6 adoption in 2008.

Still, for some, there needs to be a killer app for IPv6 that shows why it's so much more capable than IPv4.

NTT America, a division of Japanese telecom giant NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone,) may have a killer IPv6 application -- and it's one that could save lives too.

In Japan, NTT is working with the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on an emergency earthquake alert service built on IPv6.

"When you talk about IPv6, there are nice features but there are no compelling reasons to move onto it yet, and everybody is talking about 'What is the killer app?'" NTT America Vice President Kazuhiro Gomi told InternetNews.com. "I'm not sure if this is killer for commercial enterprises but this is definitely a good example of how you can leverage all the good things about IPv6."

The NTT-built system works using a myriad of sensors spread out through the countryside, all connected via IPv6. When the sensors detect an earthquake, they transmit the data to both government agencies and commercial utilities so appropriate action can be taken.

"When an earthquake happens, if you know earlier you can do things faster, like turn off the gas or go to a safer place," Gomi said. "The system is trying to provide a solution to save lives and damage by alerting people and agencies 10 to 15 seconds before an earthquake arrives."

IPv6 plays a critical role in the plan because of its built-in multicasting capabilities. Multicasting allows for one data stream to be sent to multiple recipients, as opposed to unicast -- one stream per recipient.

Address space is also a key issue. Due to IPv4 address space exhaustion, it's common to use Network Address Translation, or NAT , which can sometimes cause difficulty getting one endpoint to connect to another in a seamless fashion.

Gomi noted that with IPv6's abundant address space, network designers don't have to worry about NAT, so they can reach from a central server to client systems directly without issue.

"From a technology point of view, it's quite difficult to create the same thing over IPv4 because of the difficultly with multicasting, and also the NAT issue that you have go over with IPv4," Gomi said. "You also need to have a lot of endpoints, and the Internet is a great connection medium to connect many endpoints to many end users."

While the NTT system is currently in use in Japan, Gomi and his crew at NTT America will be demonstrating the system in the next few weeks to first responders in Washington, D.C.

While NTT's earthquake detection system might be a needed wakeup call for IPv6, overall, there hasn't been a mad rush to IPv6 in North America outside of the federal government. Gomi said that while the government may have a mandate for IPv6-capable networks, commercial businesses do not.

"The situation is a bit different in Japan and the rest of Asia, where the address exhaustion problem has been a focus for a number of years, and so Asia is a few steps ahead," Gomi said. "Since the U.S. was at the forefront of Internet development they benefited by receiving a lot more IP address, while other nations are now feeling the IP crunch sooner."

Gomi noted that NTT has been providing IPv6 capabilities for a decade, and he see the present as the time for wider deployment.

"With the address depletion issue and the U.S. government mandate, we want to bring more visible applications to the market and the earthquake detection system is one of them," he said. "We need to bring upper-layer applications to IPv6 so customers can really see the benefit of this technology."